Bunhill: Regarding Henry

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The Independent Online
THE latest report and accounts from Henry Smith's Charity lands on my desk, and very interestingreading it makes too.

Its philanthropic activities are not well publicised and the charity is little-known outside selected circles, but as a spokesman points out: 'We are very, very rich indeed.'

And so they are. Last year their assets amounted to more than pounds 337m. That sum started life as a mere pounds 2,000 more than 300 years previously.

Among the trustees are several august City figures. Lord Kingsdown, a former governor of the Bank of England (where he was known as Mr Leigh- Pemberton), Lord Kindersley, the chairman of the charity and a former chairman of Brent Walker, and James Hambro of the banking dynasty.

Hambros are investment managers tothe charity, and by all accounts they have done a jolly good job. The charity's investment portfolio increased in value from pounds 135m to pounds 169m during 1993.

Smith, a salter - a forerunner to the deep freeze, a spokesman tells me - was born in Wandsworth, London, in 1545. He had no children but was a very successful businessman. And when he died in 1628, he bequeathed pounds 2,000 for charitable purposes.

He directed that the income be split between 'the relief and ransom of poor captives being slaves under the Turkish pirates' and for 'the use and relief of the poorest of my kindred'.

Before his death, Smith purchased various estates, and the charity now most notably owns a good chunk of South Kensington, including Pelham Place, Pelham Street and Pelham Crescent.

Last year, it added to its portfolio the 3,000-acre Wiseton Estate in Nottinghamshire.

But what of all the money sloshing about in the coffers? It is being put to good use, I am pleased to report.

During 1993, Henry Smith's Charity gave away more than pounds 13m. But there were some mighty strange recipients. Consider, for instance, a grant of pounds 16,000 towards the Brief Psychotherapy Project for black women, and a further pounds 5,000 paid to The Anti-Slavery Society (London). Not projects that readily spring to mind as favoured causes of such establishment figures as Lord Kingsdown and Hambro.

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